Sunday, October 18, 2015

Election 2015

I voted on Sunday in the advance poll.

It was a pretty glorious fall day to start off and I wanted to get it done so on election night, I could watch and not have to be running around too much.

I have voted in every election where since I turned 18 save for when I was living in Japan. I haven't regretted voting ever even though I've supported losing candidates more than winning candidates on the whole.

My involvement in elections varies. Once I was a candidate, many times I have been in the trenches, other years just a donor or putting up a sign, many years a political party member, some years not. Always a voter though.

This year and for the last few years I have been a member of the Liberal party and donate a bit each month. I didn't get involved in nominations or campaigning much this year. Work schedule can always be a bit of an issue. I usually donate a chunk of money at the end of the year when I know what I can afford to give.

Election 2015 has been a very long election campaign. That was by design. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives called it earlier than they had to and their reasoning probably felt sound. They had the most money to spend and it was a good way to shut down third party ads from organizations as they would be forbidden from being shown during the election. The only bad thing was no government advertising either. On the balance it seemed a small price to pay.

Despite the fact that the NDP were in the lead at the start of the campaign in August, the Conservatives must have felt their chances were excellent. The addition of seats in the House of Commons in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. were in areas that Tories felt paved the way to majority.

Negative ads month after month had worked at pushing Justin Trudeau down to third place in the polls after an extended honeymoon after he became leader. At some point Stephen Harper must have figured the time was never going to be better. And so we plunged into this very long campaign during the hot months of summer.

Most political organizers will tell you that as a soon as an election is called, it is difficult to gauge day to day issues that rise above carefully scripted days. Limiting the amount of questions and media exposure is a tactic to control the message. Even though the Tories knew that the court hearing on Mike Duffy would be on with an early election call, they figured they could manage it. The PM would only answer 5 questions a day.

It made Tories very angry that all five questions for days and days were about Mike Duffy!

Conservatives at rallies began heckling the media for asking questions based on the latest from the Duffy trial. Not a good situation and one that lent itself to stories about Tory anger

I, like a lot of Canadians, watched the Duffy case with interest. It is hard not to be disgusted or disappointed in the failures of the Senate. Any thoughts I had when I was younger about reforming it are now grounded in the reality that it requires constitutional change. Both Mulcair and Harper have proposed policies this election on the Senate which won't stand a Supreme Court challenge. At some point, if either the NDP or Tories got elected, they will have to appoint senators. The law says so.

But that debate is for another day.

Despite the trial, Conservative poll numbers didn't take a beating. However, the Liberal ones rose up at the expense of the NDP. For the longest times this campaign, the polling numbers in aggregate have been stuck at 30%. No one close to a majority and for once the Tories not making big noise about a coalition. Why? It is because there appears to be enough people out there that want Harper gone who may wish the other parties to agree to govern. Unlike last time, it could happen.

In a 338 seat Parliament, a majority comes at 170 seats. No party seems close to that number. Talk of a minority government became inevitable.

The debate in English and French came early and not without controversy. Still, it didn't seem to move the polls until the issue of the niqab came up. But I don't think anyone really saw how things would turn out. Stephen Harper and his party saw an area that could create a wedge. Banning face covering for citizenship and possibly civil service looked to have majority support across Canada. Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and Tom Mulcair were on the side of the courts and said the issue seemed moot since only a very few had asked for such a thing. Gilles Duceppe with his finger on the pulse of Quebec went all in and supported the ban.

So what was the result? NDP support began to dip. The niqab might not be the only reason for the slide. In truth, there will some soul searching among the NDP as their campaign plan was mostly sound. However, the party has had trouble expanding their support and had all parties chipping away at their strongest base in Quebec. The main beneficiary has been Trudeau.

In the last week before the election, NDP and Conservative support appears to be waning. Is it Trudeaumanina? That seems a bit of reach. Support in polls has been incremental, notching up only a bit at a time. Is it a media swoon? That might be giving the media a bit too much credit given that it isn't only about the leaders.

Perhaps I don't listen to or watch the right media. Private radio has been traditionally conservative and appears to remain so. CBC takes it on the chin a lot but their popular political news and panel shows on TV and radio have members of all parties debating every day.

How about newspapers? Every major newspaper in Canada endorsed the Conservatives last election except one. The Toronto Star endorsed the NDP.

Of course, I'm sure some will have a different view of all this and say for sure that Trudeau has been the recipient of a love-in. There are probably quite a few NDP and Conservatives who might say so.

I have never been a fan of Stephen Harper. I believed his politics were narrow and mimicked the worst aspects of the Liberals he so wished to defeat. I often hear even from some Conservatives nowadays that they still are Conservative but not always comfortable with the leader. I think this has been the case of Liberals and NDP from time to time as well. It happens.

The longer a leader is in place in Canada, the more power the Prime Minister's Office has to act in the stead of cabinet and caucus. In recent years, we have seen orders given out to MPs and Senators from the PMO that thwart how the Parliamentary system operates. The contrast to Britain and Australia has become more pronounced over the decades as MPs and Senators in Canada become like potted plants standing behind their leaders.

The threat a MP faces is to be kicked out of caucus or not have their nomination papers signed by the leader. The threats to Senators are also being kicked out of caucus or other sanctions. We have seen during the election campaign how candidates are tossed under the bus at the first sign of trouble. This isn't limited to one party. It happens to all of them.

In the case of Stephen Harper, he has taken control to new levels and tried to stifle independent offices of Parliament such as Elections Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer and civil servants in general. The one thing he has not been able to control is the Supreme Court which has sent a great deal of legislation down to defeat. This despite the fact that Harper has appointed 8 of the 9 Justices!

This election won't change this awful power dynamic of the PMO. However, a new PM could certainly change the contemptuous nature of the leadership. Parliament in and of itself is important and should operate not at the behest of an unelected chief of staff appointee. While we need a good prime minister, he has to share the heavy lifting and quite honestly, Harper has had fewer of those not more.

Many have said this election is about the economy and I don't disagree it is a driving factor. But it isn't a one man show as it seems to be now. We will need 338 members of Parliament who are prepared to work hard, research the issues, listen to the public, form plans and initiate legislation on health, defence, immigration, finance, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs and trade.

There are three things when considering voting: 1: Local candidate 2. Political party and policies and 3. Leader.

It should always be remembered that a voter elects a member of Parliament. I look at my local candidates always. It would be very hard for me to vote for my candidate if they were totally wrong for the riding.

Next, political party and policies are important. If the candidate I like wants to separate my province from Canada, I obviously have to move along. In other words, I look at the platform and determine if the party as a whole is compatible with my world view. I know not everything will be perfect but it has to be more or less something I can support.

Lastly, the leader is final thing to consider. We are simply too leader-centic. A captain on a hockey team doesn't win games by themselves. They do set the tone, do a lot of heavy lifting and keep the team going. This is what I look for. I am not looking for a genius in every category. I do want a leader who find the people to be the skilled and dedicated person in their area of expertise. I believe weak leadership is not being able to delegate.

So there you have it. I looked the last fours years of record. I looked at candidates, policies and leaders. I rejected my Tory candidate Steven Fletcher despite the fact that he is a better MP now than when he started. Getting demoted from cabinet has actually allowed to be freer on speaking on issues his party doesn't want to deal with such as "right to die" legislation. Still, he has been more polarizing and divisive figure rather than a visionary one.

I have already looked at the Conservative policy platform and leadership and find both wanting. I can't say that I am too impressed with their economic record. A lot of the credit goes to the previous Liberal government who left the cupboards full. Never have I been too comfortable with the tax credits aimed at different groups. Taxes should be easier not more complicated. It's a mess. In other policy areas, I find myself often disagreeing with their strategy.

I have left the NDP till the end. My local candidate for the NDP was tossed at the last moment. I found his removal to have been hasty to say the least. They have replaced him with the previous candidate who has been barely visible. Can't say it was an impressive more from Tom Mulcair and the NDP. They crippled their campaign in this riding.

I like Elizabeth May from the Greens and Parliament is better with her in it the Green local candidate won't be able to take down Steven Fletcher.  Also, I can honestly say that the platform of the Greens still leaves me doubtful on their ability to run the country.

Foe me that leaves the Liberals. I have a solid Liberal candidate with Doug Eyolfson, an ER doctor in the city. He is a longtime resident and his resume looks strong. I like the Liberal platform this election and I like Justin Trudeau as leader. There are a few policy areas I disagree with but I am satisfied about intentions of the vision of the candidate, the leader and the party.

Endorsements don't mean a thing and it is okay to be very private about political votes. But too quiet sometimes means afraid, complacent or ignorant. In short, some should speak when others won't. I am more unhappy with people not voting than by who they are voting for. A disengaged public can be led to ruin and they will not even have had a say in the matter because they excused themselves from doing so. I will be voting for Dough Eyolfson in Winnipeg Charleswood for the Liberals and win or lose, I will be happy with that decision.

Be happy with your decision as well. But do decide to vote.

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